Two posts ago, I left off with the question, “Is male hierarchy God’s intended order for creation for all time?” The hierarchical complementarians answer yes, and the egalitarians (and I) answer no. In this post, I’ll begin a discussion of gender in the creation narratives of Genesis 1 and 2.
I’d like to start by noting that Genesis has two distinct creation narratives in the first two chapters. For various linguistic and literary reasons, scholars think these may have been written by different authors at different times. But at the very least, the people of God retained both accounts placed side by side, suggesting to us that each offers an important insight into the God who created all and that God’s relationship to that creation.
The first narrative focuses, of course, on God’s effortless and artful work of creating the cosmos. Unlike other ancient gods, this God expends no more energy than a puff of breath to bring order to chaos. The narrative builds from foundational, inanimate elements like light, earth and water to thriving living things. Climactic in God’s work is the creation of human beings who, male and female alike, are made in the image and likeness of their Creator. To these humans (male and female), God gives the first commands (to humans) in our Scriptures: “Be fruitful and multiply” and be responsible stewards over the rest of creation. The latter command is one of the things that separates human beings from the creepy crawlies in this narrative - it’s giving them, both male and female, some sort of shared authority over creation. (Aside: if we are to be like God in our care for the earth and its inhabitants, it ought to facilitate the living and thriving of all creatures. One soapbox at a time, Kel...)
I think, for most of us, there’s no question that men and women are both made in the image of God. That is, aside from a few histrionic patriarchalists in the last century who claimed that only men were made in God’s image. (But they do offer a wonderful example of why it’s so imperative that our modern Bible translations should use gender inclusive language -- Ah! Another soapbox! They’re everywhere!) I’d argue that, at the very least, this “image and likeness of God” entails a shared responsibility for and authority over the rest of creation. Drawing from the theological richness of the Christian tradition, I’d also claim that human beings are like the triune God in that they are relational beings. As “God is love”, we are to “love one another.” I’d venture to say that this gives us a picture of harmonious, loving partnership between women and men that is central to our identity as bearers of the image of God.
From this first creation account, both the HC and the E can claim grounds for their agreement that men and women are equal before God. Both are created in God’s image, so there is an essential, ontological equality. It’s in their interpretations of the second creation account that the HC and the E diverge from one another. The HC would claim that a hierarchy of roles based on gender does not undermine this essential equality. On the other hand, the E think that, if we really believe men and women are essentially equal, it should be reflected in egalitarian roles. In other words, ontological equality should correlate with practical equality. These distinct perspectives color our interpretations of the second creation narrative.
Unfortunately, I have some errands to run and packing to do, so that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.